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In April, 72-year-old Curtis O’Dell of Hodgenville drove to Andersonville, Tenn., and caught a ride to his old hometown of Knoxville.
He planned to walk home – 235 miles – and completed just more than half of his journey before his blistered feet became too painful to continue. His sister Brenda and her husband Tommy “rescued” him and drove him home.
Last month, O’Dell returned to “the exact spot” of his rescue to finish his journey – 99.5 miles.
His backpack was heavier and contained more supplies on this leg of the walk. In April, it weighed 33 pounds. This time, 47 pounds. O’Dell carried extra clothing, water and homemade trail mix – English walnuts and raisins.
O’Dell kept a diary of the walk.
I began walking at 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13. About a half-hour before sundown I had walked only 11 or 12 miles. I’m just north of Albany at a lovely park. I’ll camp here for the night.
I took a 30-minute break at McDonald’s in Albany. I took my shoes off to let my feet rest. I’ve just now washed with handi-wipes, changed my socks and put on my camp shoes. It’s time to call Stella.
Brenda made notes on the way to drop me off. She noted the places that I may want to stop for food and water, marking the mileage between stops. This information was very helpful.
I didn’t sleep much last night. I tossed and turned all night. It seems my hearing aids somehow got under me and I crushed them both. They were good hearing aids and I paid over $5,000 for them. They were not insured so I guess I’ll have that paying experience again. No need to get mad or excited – it’s just one of those things now and then.
I was up at sunup, walked a long way before I came to a place to get a cola. I took a while with my shoes off. I walked about 10 miles, found a place to get a bologna sandwich and some milk. I got another one to go. I walked another six miles.
I’ve just made camp, getting ready to eat my sandwich. Washed with handi-wipes again.
Walking is more stressful this trip even though I am walking fewer miles per day. The roads are better and the mountains are not as steep.
I’ve got a pretty good campsite, at least the mosquitoes seem to like it. The sun just went down and I’m on top of a small mountain beside the road.
It looks like a nice day. I just popped my first blister. It’s on my right heel; I put iodine on it. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.
I ate an energy bar and some trail mix. It’s six-and-a-half miles to the next water. I should be fine.
I stopped at a place that sold antiques. They didn’t sell food except for ice cream. I got an ice cream and they gave me water. About a mile farther on, they sold sandwiches. Their bologna sandwich was good so I got another for tonight.
The waitress wanted my picture to send to her niece who is also a walker. I wrote her a brief note: “Knoxville, Tenn. to Hodgenville, Ky. Good walking. Take care of yourself and take care of the earth.”
It’s about an hour before sundown but I found a good place to camp. It’s on a bank so the headlights won’t be on me and I’m about 10-feet off the road. I’m about seven miles south of Glens Fork. I took another handi-wipes bath. Maybe if I can reach Columbia tomorrow I’ll find a place to take a sink bath.
It was a light rain until about 1 p.m. I was really tired by the time I reached Glens Fork. I’m definitely carrying too much weight. My feet are stinging but I don’t have any new blisters. The church in Glens Fork was just letting out and some of the men said the store there would be open shortly. I was ready for a rest so I sat on the porch of the store for awhile. They never did open so I went on.
I was low on water, so I stopped at a house and asked for some. A very nice man filled my container and also brought me a cold bottle of water to drink. He also gave me a soda, offered me food and money. I declined both.
I had a very close encounter with a large dog. It must have weighed about 120 pounds. The owner got it stopped just a few feet from me. It was the only time on the entire trip that I thought I was in trouble.
I reached the park just south of Columbia. I took a bath from a faucet using my old T-shirt to wash with. I washed my hair and went on in to Columbia. There was only fast food so I got a pizza. A lot of rain was coming in for about two days so I got a room. It was nice to get a nice hot shower.
It rained all that night and the next day and night. Bobby, Stella’s son, came by Monday evening. I gave him my camp shoes and a shirt to take back with him. Every pound you can lighten your load helps.
Bobby works some in that area and said he would watch for me the next couple of days.
I started walking again. It was still raining pretty hard but was supposed to stop soon. It rained about three hours.
There was a good campsite about five miles south of Campbellsville. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was tired. It was supposed to be in the 40s and I didn’t have a sleeping bag, just a fleece liner that I made to go inside a sleeping bag. Anyway, I could keep the wind off me.
No lunch or supper – just nuts and raisins.
I got up with the sun. As I was breaking camp, a man just a little older than me came up wearing a big grin. He brought me some dry cereal in a zip-lock bag, a can of soda and two cream-filled oatmeal cookies. He offered a ride and some money. As always I couldn’t take a ride or money.
I walked about five miles to a steakhouse. I had my first meal that wasn’t bologna. About six miles later there was that same man, still grinning. He had some property about five miles ahead. There was a pontoon boat there and I could sleep on it. I could sleep on the cushions and pull the curtains to keep the wind off.
Bobby had stopped while walking earlier with some chicken sandwiches. This was the first day of walking that I had two meals the same day.
When the sun went down, my clothes were damp it was getting cold. After it got dark, I changed into dry clothes. I slept in my rain jacket again.
I slept good. The curtains did their work. I walked less than a mile to a store and ate two eggs and a piece of toast. I had a lively conversation with 13 men who were having their breakfast.
About a mile later, Stella came to meet me. I got rid of all the extra weight that I could, even my bedroll as I was sure I’d be home by night. It was only 15 miles left to go.
A muscle in my left leg began to hurt quite a bit. It was between my hip and my knee. I began to wonder if I could make it that day, but I did.
I got in Hodgenville at 6:30 p.m., exhausted but happy to be home. My trip ended at the center of the Square.
This ended my 235-mile walk. I didn’t pollute the earth at all.
God told Adam to take care of the animals and the garden (the earth). This was the first commandment to mankind.
Let us not forget it.
Curtis A. O’Dell